Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, bpas, said:
“We are delighted that the amendment to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland has passed its final parliamentary vote. We applaud all the MPs and Lords, in particular Stella Creasy MP, who have achieved this momentous victory for the women and girls of Northern Ireland.
“There are no indications that the NI Assembly will reconvene before the October 21st deadline set in the legislation. This means that as of October 22nd, no woman will face criminalisation for ending her own pregnancy, and the ongoing prosecution of a mother who bought abortion pills for her then-15 year old daughter will finally be dropped. At bpas, every day we see the immense hardship imposed on women and girls who are forced to travel overseas, often alone, to access medical care. We look forward to the day when all UK citizens can access safe, legal abortion care within their own country, supported by their own doctors, nurses, and midwives.
“This huge step forward for abortion reform in Northern Ireland will bring in to focus the fact that women and medical professionals in England, Wales, and Scotland, can still face up to life imprisonment for ending a pregnancy at any gestation outside of the terms of the 1967 Abortion Act. The sections of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 that will be repealed for Northern Ireland will remain in effect in the rest of the UK. Consequently, while a woman in Belfast who ends her pregnancy using online abortion medication will be protected from prosecution from 22nd October, a woman who uses the same medication in Brighton risks criminalisation.
“In supporting this amendment, parliament has agreed that abortion should be regulated as a medical procedure rather than a criminal matter in Northern Ireland – and we ask that they commit to support the exact same reform for the women of England, Wales, and Scotland.”
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Notes to Editors:
bpas is a charity which sees more than 80,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. More information can be found at bpas.org.